Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
ritualism whose development must be self-righteousness. It is needful for their recovery from apostasy that the authority of the apostle and the truth of the gospel should be put before them in unmistakable terms. Hence we find Paul plunging at once into the needful expositions of his own apostleship and of the gospel of Christ with which as an apostle he was charged. In this salutation we have the following lessons distinctly taught: -
I. PAUL'S APOSTLESHIP WAS RECEIVED DIRECTLY FROM JESUS CHRIST. (Ver. 1.) Doubtless he had merely human hands laid upon his head at Antioch (Acts 13:3), but the imposition of the hands of the brethren was not the conveyance of authority, but simply the recognition of authority as already conveyed. The "ordination" at Antioch was the recognition by the Church of' authority and mission already conveyed by the Lord to the apostle. Accordingly in this instance before us Paul claims an apostleship directly from the hands of Christ. He was an apostle "not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Revised Version). No intermediate hands conveyed the authority to him; he was conscious of having received it directly from the fountain-head. This gave him confidence consequently in dealing with the Judaizing teachers. It mattered not to him what parade of authority these teachers made; he stood as a rock upon his own commission with all its hallowed associations. And should this not instruct every true teacher as to the source of his authority? It is a mistake to imagine that men can do more than recognize God-given authority. It is from Christ directly we must each receive our office. Church officers, in putting their imprimatur upon any of us, merely recognize a Divine work which they believe on due evidence to be already there.
II. THE DESIRE OF THE APOSTLE FOR THE GALATIANS' WELFARE. (Vers. 2, 3.) The deep longing of Paul and those associated with him in his captivity for these apostate Galatians was that grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ might be theirs. "Grace," the gratuitous, undeserved favour which wells forth from the Divine heart, when it is received into the sinner's soul, produces "peace which passeth all understanding." It was this blessed experience Paul desired for the Galatians. They may have traduced his office and his character, but this did not prevent him entertaining the deep desire that into "truths of peace" they, like himself, should be led. And indeed we cannot wish people better than that grace and peace from heaven should be theirs. To live in the felt favour of God, to realize that it is at the same time quite undeserved, produces a peace and a humility of spirit beyond all price!
III. THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED WAS THAT OF THE SELF-SACRIFICE OF CHRIST, (Ver. 4.) Jesus, he asserts, "gave himself for our sins." The foundation of the gospel is self-sacrifice. But we must always remember that self-sacrifice, if for the merest trifle, may be moral madness. In self-sacrifice as such there is no necessary virtue. A man may lose his life in an utterly unworthy cause. Hence the necessity for the self-sacrifice of Christ must be made out before its real virtue is established. This necessity appears when we consider that it was "for our sins ' he gave himself. For if our sins had been removed at some meaner cost than the blood of the Son of God, we should be disposed to say that sin is after all a light thing in God's sight, a mere bagatelle to him. But inasmuch as it required such a sacrifice to take away sin, its enormity is made manifest to all. Christ laid down his life, then, in a noble cause. Surely to take away sin, to remove from human hearts their heavy burdens, to bestow on men peace and deliverance from all fear, was a worthy object in self-sacrifice. We stand before the cross, therefore, believing that the sacrifice upon it is of infinite value and efficacy. He was no martyr by mistake as he died upon the tree, but the most glorious of all heroes.
IV. CHRIST'S AIM IN SELF-SACRIFICE WAS OUR DELIVERANCE FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD. (Ver. 4.) The world is the totality of tendencies which oppose themselves to God. To love such a world is incompatible with love to God the Father (1 John 2:15). It is, moreover, made up of "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Now, it is to this world that the ritualist falls a prey. This was the danger of the Galatians. The revival of rites and ceremonies, which had been fulfilled and therefore done away in Christ, pandered to the lust of the eyes and to the pride of life. Hence Paul proclaims at the outset that one purpose of the gospel of self-sacrifice is to deliver its recipients from the power of this present evil world which is constantly trying to bring us into bondage. The religion of Christ is freedom. He means to deliver us from bondage. It is our own fault if we are not delivered.
V. THE FINAL END OF THE GOSPEL IS ALWAYS THE GLORY OF THE FATHER. (Ver. 5.) Hence the doxology with which the apostolic desire closes. It is with doxologies that the dispensation of grace must end. Heaven itself is the concentration of the doxologies which have been gathering upon earth; the full concert after the terrestrial rehearsals. And it is here that the safety of the whole dispensation may be seen; for if the glory of some imperfect Being were contemplated, his designs would of necessity run contrary in many cases to the real good of others. But God the Father is so perfect that his glory always consists with the real good of all his creatures. Doubtless some of his creatures will not believe this, and will insist on suspecting and hating his designs. In consequence they must be exposed to his righteous indignation. But this is quite compatible with the fact that the Divine glory and the real good of all are meant to harmonize. Happy will it be for us if we join in the rehearsals of his glory here, and are promoted to the chorus full-orbed and like the sound of many waters above. But even should we insist on discord, our own discomfort alone shall be secured; discords can, we know, be so wedded to harmony as to swell and not diminish the effect of the full orchestra. And God will secure his glory even in our poor despite. - R.M.E.
historical interest attaches to this Epistle. The Romanism with which Luther was confronted bore a striking resemblance to Judaism. On that account he was led to make a special study of this Epistle. "The Epistle to the Galatians," he said, "is my Epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife."
1. The writer. "Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)." Paul's apostleship was not without relation to men. It was directed to men, and intended for their benefit. His appointment to office was announced to him by a man (Ananias). But the authority under which the appointment was made was not derived from men. Nor was it through man as the medium that it was communicated. It was communicated through Jesus Christ. The Lord said by Ananias, "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my Name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel." When afterwards he essayed to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, he was overruled. While praying in the temple he fell into a trance, and saw Jesus, who said unto him," Depart; for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles." The authority under which Paul acted as apostle was ultimately derived from God. That is not the form in which it is put here. For the same preposition is used in connection with God as with Christ, as if God were in himself both the Medium and the Source of authority. And, in keeping with that view, one of the forms in which Ananias announced to Paul his appointment to apostleship was this: "The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth." Authority was communicated to Paul only through God as the Father, i.e. as acting through his Son Jesus Christ. This great Agent the Father raised from the dead. In the corresponding place in Romans the raising of Christ is also introduced: "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship." The thought there is that, as divinely attested in his resurrection, he could appoint to apostleship. The further thought is suggested here that, as raised, he could appoint him to apostleship. He was not among those who received appointment from Christ when he was in flesh; but the risen Christ had appeared to him, and, without any elective body of men coming between, without any action of the Church as in the election of Matthias, had immediately appointed him to apostleship.
2. Those associated with him. "And all the brethren which are with me." However high ground Paul took as to his apostleship, that did not separate him from his brethren. He even courted their Christian sympathy and support. He was open with. his companions in travel, and divulged to them his thoughts, read to them his letters. On this occasion he could say that they were at one with him. In the whole of his warm remonstrance against giving way to Judaism, there was not one expression which they wished him to tone down.
3. The Churches addressed. "Unto the Churches of Galatia." At the dawn of history the home of the Celtic race, known to the Greeks as Galatians, and to the Romans as Gauls, was the continent west of the Rhine, with these adjoining islands. In their migrations hordes of Celts poured into Italy. They also followed the course of the Danube, turning southward into Greece. Three tribes of them, crossing the Hellespont, after wide devastations, were confined in the heart of Asia Minor. The tract of country which they occupied, about two hundred miles in length, and watered by the Halys, was called after them Galatia (land of the Celts). The head towns of the three tribes were Tavium, Pessinus, and Ancyra. The original inhabitants were Phrygians, and in later times there were additions of Romans and of Greeks and also of Jews. But the predominant element was Celtic, and the Celtic language was spoken along with Greek. To peoples, then, with more or less of a Celtic origin this Epistle to the Celts is invested with special interest. Paul came into contact with this new race in his second missionary tour. There is a singular meagreness of information regarding his visit. All that is recorded is that, being overruled as to his intended route, he passed through the region of Phrygia and Galatia. As meagrely it is said, in connection with his third missionary tour, that he passed through the same region in order, stablishing all the disciples. The result of his evangelizing was the formation of several Churches. They are (as was pointed out by Chrysostom) addressed here without title. What there is of characterization is thrown into the salutation.
II. SALUTATION. Notwithstanding what he refuses to them at the present juncture, he heartily wishes them well.
1. Blessing invoked. "Grace to you and peace." He invokes grace on them, or the bestowment of the Divine favour, not because of merit in them, but because of merit obtained for them. As the result of grace, he invokes peace, or the absence of inward misgiving, and as far as possible the absence also of disturbing influences from without, Judaism included.
2. From whom invoked. "From God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ." He first invokes blessing from God the Father. He goes to the very fountain-head. The fatherhood of God is the ultimate reason for our being blessed. It is impossible to go higher than that. Where is there hope for the child who disobeys his father's command? The hope lies in what the father is. He naturally pities his child, and desires to bless him. So where is there hope for us in our state of disobedience? The hope lies in what God is. He is the Fountain of all fatherly feeling. As the Father, he was moved with compassion toward us, and desired to bless us notwithstanding all our unworthiness. It was the fatherly feeling that moved to redemption. It is the fatherly feeling that moves to bless in connection with redemption. This, then, is the height to which we must lift up our eyes, from whence cometh help. He also invokes blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Father was formerly bound with Christ by the preposition "through," so now Christ is bound with the Father by the preposition "from." Such freedom is significant. He who is the Channel is also the Source of blessing. He is Jesus, the higher Joshua, who saves his people from their sins. It was through him that effect was given to the fatherly feeling in God, and that the Father approaches man with blessing. He is the Christ who was anointed of God for this end. He is our Lord, as the successful Accomplisher of salvation placed over the house of God, to whom it belongs to dispense blessing. It is to him, then, as sovereign Dispenser of blessing that we must look. Central truth made prominent by being thrown into the salutation. "Who gave himself for our sizes, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father." The language has evidently a sacrificial colouring. The worshipper came with his sins before God. The oblation he presented to God was an animal. With his sins taken over, the animal paid the penalty in its death. So the oblation which Christ presented to God was himself. With our sins taken over, he really and fully suffered the desert of them in his death, especially in the hiding of the Father's countenance. What gave this self-oblation infinite value was the dignity of the Sufferer; and also his perfect trust in God, and all-absorbing love for men, and never-failing hope for their salvation in the mysterious forsaking which made trial of him. The object with which Christ gave himself Was, not only that he might deliver us from the guilt of sin, but also that he might deliver us from the manifestation of sin in this present evil world. This world is thought of, not as it might have been, but as it actually is. It might have been a good world; it is instead an evil world. Its evil character consists, not only in its opposing itself in its opinions and practices to men's good, but especially in its opposing itself to God. It is a world that, in its wickedness, forgets God, casts off God. "The Lord shall not see;" "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?" Now, Christ died that we might be delivered from this tyrannous world, and introduced into the liberty, if not at once of a perfect form of society, yet of a personal condition, and Church condition too, in which God has something of the place to which he is entitled. And all this is to be thought of as according to the will of our God and Father. The Father has the primacy throughout. It was in his will that salvation originated. It was his will that was carried out by Christ. "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy Law is within my heart." The outcome is the doing of the Father's will by man as it is by the angels.
III. DOXOLOGY. "To whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." The foundation of the ascription of glory to God is the glory displayed by God in salvation. There was a glorious display of wisdom in the planning of salvation. There was a glorious display of justice in the satisfaction made for sin. There was a glorious display of power in the overcoming of sin. There was especially a glorious display of love in its overflowing on sinners. In view of such a display it becomes us to ascribe glory to God. We cannot take it to ourselves. Our language must ever be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us." In what God has done for our salvation there will be found subject for our doxologies to the ages of ages. To every ascription of glory it becomes us to add our "Amen." May our "Amen" become ever deeper, and may the circle of such "Amens" evermore increase. - R.F.
I. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY IS CONFERRED. It does not originate in the man who possesses it. He is "one sent," a messenger, a missionary, an ambassador. As the prophet is the man who "speaks for" God, the Divine spokesman, so the apostle is he who is sent by his Lord, the messenger of Christ. Thus the apostolic authority is very different from that of the philosopher which depends entirely on his own intellectual powers, and that of the religious founder which grows out of the man's own spiritual ideas, and all purely personal authority. It is derived from the authority of Christ. Natural gifts can no more make a man an apostle than they can give a free-lance the right to command a national army.
II. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY IS INDEPENDENT OF HUMAN INFLUENCES.
1. It is not derived from a human origin. It is not "of men." No man and no body of men can create an apostle. To attempt such a creation is to put forth forged credentials; it is like the act of a man who engraves his own notes and passes them in currency as though they had been issued by a bank.
2. It is not derived through a human medium. It is not "through man." Matthias was thought to be appointed by God since he was chosen by lot after prayer for Divine guidance; but he certainly received his apostleship, such as it was, through men, for the election of him was arranged by the Church (Acts 1:23-26). This was not the case with St. Paul. The highest authority is independent of all ecclesiastical arrangements and of all official management.
III. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY COMES DIRECT FROM CHRIST AND GOD. The sovereign commissions his own ministers. The office derives its high influence from this origin.
1. It is from God. Therefore the apostle is divinely inspired. The Church order that he establishes and the doctrinal truth that he preaches have both claims upon our reverence, because they come through him from God.
2. It is also from Christ. It is "through" Christ as being received immediately from him, but it is also "through" God, for no distinction is here to be made. Christ, however, is personally concerned. The apostle is a Christian officer. His work is not to serve the general religion of faith in God and providence and natural revelation, but to promote the special faith of the gospel.
IV. THE APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY IS DEPENDENT ON THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, God is named as "the Father, who raised him from the dead." St. Paul alone of all the apostles received his commission in the first instance from the risen Christ. But the other apostles were also especially endowed and sent forth by Christ after the resurrection (Matthew 28:16-20). Apart from the importance that attaches itself in many ways to the resurrection of Christ as the proof of his victory, the assurance of our future, etc., there is this particular point here of significance that Christ still lives, that the apostle is not merely faithful to a memory, but serves a living Lord, that he is not the successor of Christ, but the servant who carries out the fresh mandates of the living and reigning King. - W.F.A.
John 3:16). The two do not cover exactly the same ground, for the gospel is so large that no sentence can comprehend even its leading truths, and so many-sided that no two minds can see it in the same light. Consider the main points of the one now before us.
I. CHRIST VOLUNTARILY SACRIFICED HIMSELF. In the passage just referred to St. John tells us how God gave his only begotten Son on our behalf, now St. Paul reminds us that Christ also freely gave himself. It was of his own will, subject also to the will of his Father, that he lived a life of humiliation. He could have escaped the cross by abandoning his mission. He went right on to death clearly knowing what was before him, able to deliver himself at the last by calling legions of angels to his aid (Matthew 26:53), yet willingly submitting to death. The self-sacrifice of Christ was distinct from suicide in the fact that he did not seek death, and only met it in the course necessary for the carrying out of his life's mission. It is important to bear in mind that the essence of the sacrifice of Christ lies in this conscious, willing surrender of himself. It is not the mere tortures he suffered, nor the bare fact of his death that gives a value to his endurance. If he had died of a natural disease after bearing worse pain he could have made no atonement thereby. The willing "obedience unto death" gives a sacrificial value to his death.
1. This only could be a "satisfaction" to God.
2. This only could be a claim upon our faith and love.
II. THE OCCASION OF THE SACRIFICE WAS OUR SINS. We cannot say that God would not have become incarnate if man had not fallen. But if the happy event at Bethlehem would still have taken place, the awful tragedy at Calvary would have been spared. It is not only that the sin of the world directly caused the rejection and killing of Christ; his submission to death was occasioned by sin; it was to save us from the power and curse of sin.
1. Sin alienated us from God and occasioned the need of a reconciling sacrifice.
2. Sin cast us into bondage and created the necessity for a redeeming ransom.
III. THE OBJECT OF THE SACRIFICE WAS TO DELIVER US FROM THE PRESENT EVIL WORLD.
1. It was not to deliver us from God, as false notions of the atonement have almost suggested, but the very opposite, i.e. to deliver us from that which is most opposed to God.
2. It was not primarily to deliver us from the future evil world, from the pains and penalties of sin there to be endured. A most degrading view of redemption is that which regards it as having little effect on our life now - as chiefly a means of escape from future suffering.
3. It was essentially deliverance from the dominion of the evil present, of our own bad habits, of the corrupt customs of the age.
IV. THE DELIVERANCE THUS EFFECTED WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE WILL OF GOD.
1. The object was in accordance with the will of God. He was the first to desire the deliverance of his poor lost children. When they are delivered they are brought out of conflict into harmony with his will.
2. The method of the deliverance was also in agreement with God's will. It was God's will to send his Son. What Christ did was accepted by God as well-pleasing in his sight. The whole sacrifice of Christ was an obedience and submission to God's will. Herein lay its value (Hebrews 10:9, 10). The fact is here declared by St. Paul. He offers no theory to account for it. Theories of the atonement are after-growths of theology, and valuable as some of them may be, they are not of essential importance. The fact is the one ground for our faith. - W.F.A.
I. IT IS MARVELLOUS HOW ATTRACTIVE RITUALISM IS TO FICKLE MINDS. (Ver. 6.) Now, by ritualism we mean a plan of salvation by rites and ceremonies. The principle is the same whether the rites and ceremonies are Jewish or mediaeval. It is a substitute for the gospel of grace. Now, Paul marvelled that these Celts in Asia so speedily turned away from the gospel of grace to a gospel of ritual. He wondered at their fickleness. And yet, when we consider the sensationalism which underlies every ritualistic system, we can understand the hold it has upon those constitutionally fickle. Whatever is showy, palpable, and helpful to self-esteem and pride secures the homage of shallow minds. But the sad aspect of this tendency is that it removes souls from God. Every rite and ceremony which is interposed as essential between man and God creates a sense of distance between those whom the gospel would bring nigh. Instead of ritualism tending to intensify communion with God, it can only intensify the superstitious feeling which puts souls at a distance from him.
II. RITUALISM IS A PERVERSION OF THE GOSPEL. (Ver. 7.) For Paul would not admit that the ritualism imported by the Judaizers into Galatia was another gospel; in his view it was no gospel, but a perversion of it. For if I am told I can be saved only by becoming a Jew, by being circumcised, and keeping the Old Testament ritual, and that I cannot be saved by faith alone, I am deprived of the glad tidings which Christ's gospel gives, and projected upon a path of real self-righteousness. It is the same with modern ritualism. Salvation by ceremonies is the antithesis of salvation by grace. It is a perversion of God's good news to man and must result in disappointment.
III. WE OUGHT, LIKE PAUL, TO BE S0 SURE OF THE GOSPEL WE PROCLAIM AS TO BE INTOLERANT OF ANY OTHER. (Ver. 8.) Paul had got such a grasp of the gospel of grace, the self-sacrifice of Christ was so sure and so sufficient a foundation for man's hope, that he could not tolerate any other message. Even should he himself change his views in the course of years and come to Galatia with another gospel, or should an angel from heaven with an aureole of light proclaim another gospel than the one Paul had at first proclaimed, then is the apostle ready to call down upon his perverted self or the perverted angel the curse of God. Now, this intolerant side of truth really springs from the sure grasp we have of it. It is inseparable from intense conviction. Of course, it is quite distinct from the intolerance which dictates persecution. Paul would not persecute; but he would leave the perverts in the hands of God that he might deal with them. Persecution is devoting men to the curse of men; the true intolerance contents itself with leaving the offenders in the hands of a holy and just God.
IV. THE BEING WHO MISLEADS HIS FELLOWS ABOUT SALVATION DESERVES THE CURSE OF GOD. (Ver. 9.) Paul has not been rashly betrayed into intolerance of spirit. He had expressed himself to the same effect on a previous occasion, probably during his second visit to Galatia (Acts 18:23). He is now prepared to stick to his anathema. He feels in his heart of hearts that the person who trifles with the eternal interests of others and proclaims a false method of salvation deserves the Divine curse. The gospel Paul had preached was the gospel of free grace. No simpler terms of pardon and acceptance can be imagined than are offered in the gospel; it is only devil's work which those persons manage to perform who complicate salvation with rites and ceremonies, making it less easy than God intends. Having regard, then, to the eternal interests at stake, it must be admitted that the deceiver of souls deserves the curse of Heaven. How solemn a responsibility it is to guide men to God! How clear and unmistakable should the plan of salvation be made! How deep the guilt and how dire the doom of those who pervert the gospel!
V. THE SLAVE OF CHRIST WILL NOT BE THE SLAVE OF PUBLIC OPINION. (Ver. 10.) Paul was undoubtedly a man of great breadth of view and sympathy. It was a principle with him to please his neighbour for his good to edification (Romans 15:2). He was ready to become all things to all men in the hope of saving some (1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Corinthians 10:33). And the Judaizers thought that this pleasing of men on Paul's part would lead him to accept of their ritualism and give up his gospel if their policy was once thoroughly popular. In short, their notion was that Paul was so enamoured of popularity that he would bow to public opinion at all hazards. Now, this is what he repudiates in this last verse. "Do I now," he asks, "win over to myself men or God? Or am I seeking to be an object of man's good will? No; and there is a decisive reason against any such efforts. If I were still pleasing men, if I had not resigned the hope of human favour and of human approval, I should not be the slave of Christ." This leads us into the wide subject of our attitude towards public opinion. Now, our danger undoubtedly is in over-estimating it. Our safety lies in being slaves to Christ. His opinion is to be our one simple concern, and public opinion may coincide with or differ from his, but we must hold firmly by our obligations to the one Master, and all other things will range themselves rightly around us. The uncompromising slave of Christ will be found to be after all the most considerate servant of men. - R.M.E.
I. THE APOSTLE EXPRESSES AMAZEMENT AT THE CHANGED BEARING OF THE GALATIANS TOWARDS THE GOSPEL. "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ? Only in this Epistle are wanting prefatory words of acknowledgment. In the case of the Corinthians he has words of warm acknowledgment, because, notwithstanding irregularities, they were in the main attached to the gospel. But all of attachment to the gospel that the apostle had formerly been thankful for in the Galatians was now so endangered that he can only approach them with a feeling of utter amazement.
1. The fundamental nature of the change. They were removing from him that called them in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel. If this was a different gospel, then we have a description of the gospel of Christ going before. It is the grace of Christ. It is the good offer of pardon and salvation, not on the ground of our merits, but purely on the ground of the sacrifice and merits of Christ. That gospel had been preached in Galatia, and in and by it God had called them unto himself, unto fellowship with himself, unto holiness and happiness. But now they were moving away from him that called them in that gospel unto a different gospel. The difference was that it was no more the pure grace of Christ, but a mixture of grace and works. Their departure from the gospel was not completed, the process was still going on; but it was so fundamental a departure that the apostle marvels at their guilt.
2. The suddenness of the change. They were removing so quickly from him that called them in the gospel unto a different gospel. From the point of their being called up to the present point, their Christian career had certainly been short. But that does not seem sufficient by itself to account for the abruptness with which the apostle breaks in here. God had called them in the gospel, and they had continued in the gospel up to a certain point. From the experience of his second visit, and from information received, he was thinking hopefully of them; when all at once he is informed of apostasy in rapid progress. They were acting with characteristic Gallic mobility. Fickleness is the name applied to it, when the form is evil. A Gallic tribe might be to all appearance contented and prosperous, when, suddenly impelled by the love of change, it would move away to another locality. "Almost all the Gauls," says Caesar, in his account of his Gallic wars, "are given to change." The Galatians themselves were a striking example of this love of change. This characteristic would be in favour of their reception of the gospel at the first. But would they not as easily move away from the gospel? In view of Gallic mobility, the apostle of Christ needed to be as vigorous as the Roman captain was.
3. The unsatisfactoriness of the change. He had said "different gospel" with a certain accommodation. It professed to be a gospel, and he objected to it that it was another kind of gospel. That, however, might seem to contain an admission by him, which he does not wish to make, of there being many gospels, among which a selection might be made. So he hastens to deny that this other kind is a second gospel. He lets it be known that there is only one gospel of Christ. What was being palmed upon them was only misnamed gospel. It was not improving the gospel to add circumcision to it. It was only perverting it, making it no more the gospel of Christ. And this perversion was being palmed upon them by men who had not their real good at heart, whose real character was that of troublers, harassers. They would put upon them a yoke which Christians did not need to bear. And they were men who followed in the track of the preachers of the gospel to break the unity of the Christian communities.
II. THE APOSTLE PRONOUNCES AN ANATHEMA ON PERVERTERS OF THE GOSPEL. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema." Anathema is a thing devoted to destruction, or on which a curse is laid. An animal laid on the altar was anathema, i.e. doomed to death. Christ was anathema for us, i.e. given over, and the curse of God fell on him. He supposes two cases: it is implied that they are not actual. The first is the case of a genuine preacher of the gospel - himself or any of his associates. He (others assisting) had preached the gospel among the Galatians. He had been the instrument of God in their conversion and in forming them into Churches. He had given them many proofs of his earnestness. If he - which God forbid! - should be so far left to himself as to turn his back on his previous history as a Christian teacher, if he should profess to have got new light, if he should say that they could be saved on any other ground than the grace of Christ, - then (protecting their liberty even against himself, and protecting the interests of Christ) his feeling with regard to himself, acting in the way supposed, would be, "Let him be anathema." The second is the ease of an angel from heaven. This calls up an image of extraordinary saintliness, greater than that of any of the best men, who are all compassed about with infirmity. What an influence is here supposed to back up a message] If an angel should come among them, fresh from the presence of God, with the atmosphere of heaven around him; if by the saintliness of his life he should succeed in establishing himself beyond all parallel in their affection and confidence; if in this position he should teach that they could be roved on any other ground than the grace of Christ; - then (protecting their liberty, and protecting the interests of Christ) he would say, "Let him be accursed." It might seem that this is asseveration made strong as strong can be; but its strength is yet added to. Reaffirmation of a former anathema. "As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema." At a former time (it may have been on the occasion of his second visit) others had joined with him in pronouncing an anathema which only differs from the foregoing in three minor particulars.
1. It is put in the most general form. "If any man."
2. An actual case is supposed. "If any man preacheth. Wherever they had the opportunity, Judaizing teachers were doing what is denounced.
3. They had affixed their seal to the gospel. It had not only been preached to them, but also received by them. They had from their own experience of it known what it was. The anathema in this form the apostle for himself reaffirms. Being substantially the same as the foregoing, it is thus brought about that a threefold anathema is uttered against perverters of the gospel. Nor is there anything in this inconsistent with good feeling. Let us suppose that one man has in his power the lives of a thousand persons. By applying a match he may be able to throw away all these valuable lives. Better tar that he himself should perish than that by his wickedness a thousand persons should perish. It was not dissimilar in the case of the Galatians. A good work had been going on among them. By the preaching of the gospel many had been brought to the Saviour. If this good work went on, many more, from time to time, would be added to their number. But if these perverters of the gospel succeeded, then all that good work would be spoiled. Better far that they themselves should be wrecked in their interests than that by them hundreds should be wrecked in their interests. There is a solemn warning here to all perverters of the gospel, of whom there are not a few in our day. The curse of God rests on the man who would displace the grace of Christ as the sole ground of a sinner's salvation.
III. THE APOSTLE TURNS HIS USE OF STRONG LANGUAGE INTO AN ARGUMENT AGAINST HIS BEING A MAN-PLEASER. For am I now persuading men, or God? or am I seeking to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ." His opponents warned men against his persuasive powers. He could make the Jews believe one thing and the Gentiles another. He could prove that circumcision was right and that circumcision was wrong, as it suited him. Against this charge he here, by the way, points the Galatians to the strong language which he has just used, and has not used for the first time. Could it be said in view of that language that he was making it his highest object to persuade men, i.e. without reference to truth, without reference to Divine ends? Was he not rather making it his highest object to persuade God, i.e. so to speak to men as to have the Divine judgment in his favour? His opponents said more widely that he was a man-pleaser, that he sought by unworthy methods to ingratiate himself into men's favour. The strong language he had used could not be construed into man-pleasing. He had got beyond human good will in becoming a servant of Christ. And as a servant of Christ he had known not a little of what it is to want the good opinion and good will of men. - R.F.
I. THE GROUNDS OF THE DUTY OF INTOLERANCE.
1. The exclusive claims of the gospel. There is but one gospel; a rival is a counterfeit. There is room for but one; a rival is a usurper. For:
(1) The gospel of Christ is a declaration of facts, and facts once accomplished cannot vary; it is a revelation of truth, and truth is intolerant of error; the highest truth, too, is one.
(2) The gospel of Christ is the most perfect satisfaction of our needs. Another gospel could not be a better one, for this is all we want. Nothing can be better than forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ.
(3) The gospel of Christ is the only possible gospel. God would not sacrifice his Son to death if redemption were to be obtained at a less cost. The gospel is the expression of the love and will of God. As such it is the eternal voice of an immutable Being.
2. The honour of Christ. He who proposes another gospel than that of Christ crucified and Christ risen, directly insults the Name of our Lord. Loyalty to Christ compels intolerance for all enmity to him. That is no true Christian charity which has no regard for the rights of the Lord, who should have the first claim upon our love.
3. The good of men. The gospel offers the highest blessings to men in the greatest need. It is the one anchor of hope to the despairing, the one comfort to the miserable, the one salvation for the test. If it be true, we cannot permit so precious a boon to be lost through the usurpation of a false gospel. The charity that would do this is like that which would allow multitudes of sick people to perish through the maltreatment of a quack, rather than be so unkind to him as to show the least intolerance of his delusions.
II. THE LIMITS OF THE DUTY OF INTOLERANCE.
1. The rights of the gospel, not the claims of the preacher. St. Paul has just been asserting his claims. Here, however, he entirely subordinates them to iris message. Intolerance commonly springs from personal jealousy or party spirit, and therefore it is generally so evil a thing. We are not to be intolerant for ourselves, only for the truth. The truth is infinitely more important than the teacher. The rank, the character, the ability of the man should count for nothing if he is unfaithful to the Christian truth.
2. The gospel itself, not minor accessories.
(1) Great liberty must be left in regard to details, both because these often lie on debatable gourd and because they are less important than charity. There is a point beyond which more harm will be done in disturbing the peace of the Church and wounding our fellow-Christians than good in establishing minor truths against all opposition.
(2) Account also must be taken of varying views of the gospel. Even the apostles did not state it in the same words; Peter and Paul, John and James thus vary, though with unbroken loyalty to the central truth as it is in Jesus. Language, habits of thought, aspects of truth from different standpoints necessarily present great variety. Let us see that we do not condemn a man for his clothes.
3. Spiritual intolerance, not physical persecution. St. Paul pronounces a curse on the enemy of the gospel. But he does not draw the sword upon him. He leaves him with God. There if he have erred, he will be rightly judged. We have no excuse, then, for the exercise of violence against those whom we regard as the enemies of Christ, but only for bold testimony against their errors - leaving all else in the hands of God. In conclusion, see that
(1) we receive the one true gospel, and
(2) faithfully declare it, and
(3) firmly resist manifest perversions of it. - W. F. A.
I. HIS LIFE AS A JEW. (Vers. 13, 14.) Paul, before his conversion, was the most zealous persecutor of Christianity. A strict Pharisee, he added to his self-righteousness an uncommon zeal for the old religion, and hesitated not to persecute to the death those who had embraced the new. He was zealous, but not according to knowledge.
II. THE REVELATION OF JESUS TO HIM AND IN HIM. (Vers. 11, 12, 15, 16.) It was Jesus himself who undertook Saul's conversion. There was no intermediate instrument. On the way to Damascus Jesus appeared to him in dazzling, overwhelming radiance, and compelled the persecutor to recognize, not only his existence, but his sovereign authority. That manifestation of Jesus to him revolutionized his life. Henceforth he could have no doubt regarding the reign of Jesus Christ. This was the revelation of Jesus to him - the historic interview which made Paul's career so different and so glorious. But next there was the revelation of Jesus in Paul. This was by the Holy Spirit entering into him and giving him Christ's mind, Christ's heart, Christ's compassions, so that Paul became a revelation of Christ to other men. Henceforward he was a "Christophor," carrying Christ in him, not only as his Hope of glory, but as his animating, regulating, ruling power. Paul was from that hour" possessed," but it was by the Spirit of Christ. His personality became a new centre of spiritual force and power.
III. THUS POSSESSED BY JESUS, HE BECAME INDEPENDENT OF MEN. (Vers. 16, 17.) Now, this independence of Paul had two sides.
1. He became independent of popular opinion "Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" Now it must have been very trying to surrender all his hopes as a Jew. The fact is, he was the foremost man of his nation just when Jesus converted him. The nation would gladly have followed his leadership. There was no man who had so much weight and force of character as Saul. To renounce all these hopes, and the friendships of his early years, and to face the world a lonely man was trying. Yet he was enabled by God's grace to do so. He made no truce with flesh and blood, but renounced all for Christ.
2. He felt independent of apostolic recognition. He never thought of hurrying off to Jerusalem to stand an examination at the hands of the apostles, and receive their imorimatur. He dealt at first hand with the Fountain of authority. Hence he passed to Arabia soon after his conversion, and in the solitudes of the desert, in the places associated with such master spirits as Moses, Elijah, and Christ, he communed with Christ, and pondered and laid the foundations of his theology. He called no man master; he felt that he had but one Master, and he was Christ. Now, this independence of character is what we should all seek. It can only be secured when we have renounced self-confidence and betaken ourselves to the feet of our Lord. There at the fountain of life and power we can rise up our own masters and his faithful servants, prepared to do battle, if need be, against the world.
IV. PAUL'S INTERVIEW AT JERUSALEM WITH CEPHAS AND JAMES. (Vers. 18, 19.) While Paul was properly independent in spirit, this does not imply that he was in any way morose or unsocial. His internment in Arabia, his earnest study of the whole plan of the gospel, only made him long for an interview with Cephas, the recognized leader at Jerusalem. Hence he passed from solitude to society, and had an interview of fifteen days with the apostle of the circumcision. James, who had ministerial oversight of the Jerusalem Church, shared his society too. It must have been a blessed meeting between the two mighty apostles. The meeting of two generals before some important campaign was never so momentous in its consequences as the meeting of these two humble men, Saul and Cephas. They were set upon the conquest for Christ of the world. Now, we have every reason to believe that the interview was simply one for conference. It was not that Saul might receive any authority from the hands either of Cephas or of James. He had his authority directly from Christ.
V. HIS EVANGELISTIC WORK. (Vers. 20-24.) Perhaps through mutual agreement with Peter, Paul leaves Jerusalem and Judaea and confines himself to the districts beyond. Syria and Cilicia, territories beyond the bounds of Palestine proper, where the apostles were operating, were selected by the apostle to the Gentiles for his first evangelistic efforts. He did not seek the acquaintance of the Churches in Judaea. He kept to his own province. They heard gladly that the arch-persecutor had become a chief preacher of the once despised faith. They accordingly praised God for the monument of his mercy he had raised up in Paul. But his knowledge of the gospel and his authority in proclaiming it were not, he wishes these Galatians to understand, derived from men. We should surely learn from this autobiography of Paul the secret of personal independence and power. It consists in going to the sources themselves. If we refuse to depend upon men and depend on the Lord only, we shall secure a grasp of his holy gospel and an efficiency in proclaiming it which are impossible otherwise. What the world needs now is what it needed then - men pervaded like Paul by the Spirit of Christ, and so radiating the true ideas about Christ all around. - R.M.E.
ideas by which men are to be enlightened. It also points to a number of institutions by which men are to be moulded. It principally points to a method by which men are to be saved. Paul was not simply an utterer of thoughts, nor a setter-up of institutions, but he was in the first place a proclaimer of the way of salvation. He preached with a view to his hearers taking action in a matter of infinite moment. Threefold exclusion of man from connection with the gospel as preached by the apostle.
1. He did not preach a man-made gospel. "That it is not alter man." If a division of the realm is disaffected, measures must be adopted to cope with the disaffection. Such measures may be described as after man; they are the result of human counsels. There cannot be claimed for them perfection. The gospel is not after man; it has not been devised by a man or by a body of men. It is free from imperfections that attach to human methods.
2. The gospel was not delivered to him any more than to the other apostles by man. "Neither did I receive it from man." There is not particularized the supposition of it being his own invention. We may conclude, therefore, against that being the form which the representation against him took. On the supposition of it not being a human invention, this exclusion relates to the mode of delivery. The I is emphatic. He did not receive it, any more than the other apostles received it from man.
3. He was no pupil of the apostles. "Nor was I taught it." On the supposition of it being no human invention he did not receive it in a particular form, which may therefore be concluded to be the form which the representation against him took. He was not taught it, - by whom is left indefinite. As it is unqualified, part of the idea must be that he was not taught it by the apostles. The exclusion then comes to this in the end, that he was no pupil of the apostles. What is included in the gospel as preached by the apostle. "But it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ." On this too the former language, by its indefiniteness, has a bearing. The twelve enjoyed three years of teaching under Christ on earth. It was true that he was not taught in that way. The substitute for such teaching, apart from subsequent meditation, was that he was supernaturally furnished by Jesus Christ with the contents of the gospel Historical proof to show that he was no pupil of the apostles.
I. THE JUDAISTIC PERIOD OF HIS LIFE. "For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion." He recalls the fact that they had heard, viz. from his own mouth, when he was with them, of his manner of life in Judaism. This Judaism was a good thing in its right conception and time. There were human adjuncts of it which were not good. It was intended that Judaism should be carried up into Christianity. To adhere to it, then, after Christianity had come, was to go against the Divine intention. This was what Paul did.
1. Outstanding feature of his Judaism. "How that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and made havoc of it." The Church of Christ is named, from his later point of view, the Church of God. He now realizes it as the painful element in his guilt, that he persecuted the Church of God. He was beyond measure a persecutor. It would appear, from the language which is used in one place, that at his instance Christians were put to death: "He persecuted this Way unto the death. As a consequence, he made havoc of the Church. He had put the Church at Jerusalem into confusion, and he was on his way to exterminate, if he could, the Church at Damascus.
2. Spirit by which he was animated in Judaism. And I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." He was brought up in a Hebrew home in Tarsus. Amid Gentile influences he would feel free in the world of Hebrew memories and hopes. We can think of him as showing forwardness beyond many of his own age while yet at the Hebrew school. The strong impression of his forwardness may have led to his being sent on to Jerusalem for wider opportunity. In the city of his fathers there was everything that was fitted to excite his youthful imagination, to fire his youthful enthusiasm. At the feet of Gamaliel he would come to a more intelligent appreciation of the traditions of his fathers, i.e. of the Law, with its historical accompaniments, and especially with its traditional interpretations. Here, too, we can think of him as showing forwardness beyond many of those who were receiving instruction along with him. While yet a young man he seems to have become a member of the Sanhedrim, or assembly of elders. For it is recorded of him that he gave his vote for the death of Stephen. Where he was during our Lord's ministry we have not the means of knowing. But in the subsequent development of events he very soon appears as a chief actor. It was here that he showed forwardness in Judaism beyond many of his own age among his countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of his fathers. He was zealous beyond his own master, Gamaliel, who, against manifestations of zeal, advised that, if Christianity were not of God, it would come to nought. There was this to be said for Paul, that he had a keen perception of the situation. He saw that Judaism, which he mistakenly but fondly cherished, was threatened at vital points by the forces which were at work in Christianity. He saw that, with its doctrine of a Messiah in heaven and the Holy Spirit from heaven, with the patient bearing of its adherents, and with the progress it was making, it was formidable. Either Judaism must destroy it or it would destroy Judaism. Therefore he was exceedingly zealous beyond many for Judaism.
II. THE CRISIS OF HIS LIFE.
1. His predestination to apostleship. "But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb." This is the only mention that Paul makes of his mother. We can believe that the kind of mother he had was connected with his separation to apostleship. He was separated from his birth. Being separated so early, there is precluded the supposition of human agency, his own or that of others. The separation was the act of God.
2. His call to apostleship. "And called me through his grace." This was on the road to Damascus. It was through no meritorious doing of his own, but evidently through Divine grace. He was engaged at the time in the persecution of Jesus. He had a vivid impression of a Jesus who was dead and buried, whom his disciples spoke of as alive, who was so strongly moving their hearts as to make him fear for Judaism. But now, by a supernatural intervention, he got a vivid impression of Jesus as the Messiah. In the actual appearance of Jesus the fact was given him in a way which, notwithstanding all his prejudices against it, he could not deny that he was risen and living. And making a total surrender, from that moment the authority of Christ was laid on him.
3. His qualification for apostleship. "To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles." In connection with his call there was given the fact of the Messiahship of Jesus, but there was also needed the expansion of its meaning. So it was the good pleasure of God, Dot only to give him an outward appearance, but an inward revelation. The revelation of God's Son here is to be identified with the revelation of Jesus Christ in the twelfth verse. It probably succeeded, as it was based on, the appearance of Jesus. It was not a natural excogitation, but a supernatural communication to his mind of the great truths about Christ. It was this, that he might be fitted for preaching Christ among the Gentiles.
III. THE PERIOD FOLLOWING THE CRISIS OF HIS LIFE. "Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus." So satisfying were the communications made to him by God that he needed nothing from man. Immediately (made emphatic by position) he conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went he up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles (as though he needed to get authority or instruction from them); but he went away into Arabia. The retirement is mentioned to show that, during a most important period, he kept away from Jerusalem. His first attempts at Damascus seem to have convinced him of the need of lengthened preparation for his work. In silent communion with God he sought what the other apostles got in a three years' course of training under Christ. He had to adjust himself to the new situation; he had to recast his thoughts. The contents of the gospel, which had been supernaturally communicated to him, had in a natural way to be examined and inwrought with his own thoughts. The facts connected with the earthly manifestation of Christ had to be gone over and assigned their place in his thoughts. If we are to suppose him drawn to the scene of the giving of the Law (as is suggested in the fourth chapter), he would be helped thereby to read the old in the light of the new. He had withal to brace his own soul in the new truth against all contingencies connected with his work. After his retirement he returned to the Christian circle at Damascus, only, however, to be compelled to leave it after a brief experience of preaching.
IV. THE PERIOD OF HIS FIRST VISIT TO JERUSALEM. Four facts to which he attached importance as showing that his independence was not compromised by this visit were these.
1. He did not visit Jerusalem till three years after his conversion. "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem." He was converted at the age of thirty. At that time his powers had been matured. He had been accustomed to look closely into the nature, drift, causes, worth of things. Three years of his application would suffice to achieve his independence as a Christian thinker, so that it could not be disturbed even by Peter.
2. He visited Jerusalem then to make the acquaintance of Peter. "To visit Cephas." It was not of purpose that he kept away from Jerusalem. It was simply that, in the satisfying call and communications, he felt no need to draw to the senior apostles. He freely recognized the work done by Peter, and, when the opportunity offered, he was moved to pay him a brotherly visit. Beyond that his visit had not significance.
3. His visit extended over no more than fifteen days. "And tarried with him fifteen days." As his object was to visit Peter, he stayed with him. He recalls the precise length of his stay. He had not set that as the limit beforehand. But he had to make a hurried escape from Jerusalem. And he recalls it now as a singular providence, inasmuch as it took away the appearance of his being a pupil of the Apostle Peter.
4. His visit brought him into contact only with one man of note besides Peter. "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." James was labouring with Peter in Jerusalem; the other apostles were labouring elsewhere. This James was not of the number of the twelve. The reason for mentioning him is that, though not an apostle (in the strict sense which is necessary for the argument here), he was the Lord's brother. He was brother in the sense of having the same mother as our Lord. The perpetual virginity of Mary is not to be thought of. Our feelings are no more shocked in thinking of James as her son than in thinking of her as the wife of Joseph. The difficulty is that our Lord at the last committed his mother to the care of the Apostle John. But the difficulty to a large extent remains on the supposition of James being only her stepson. Why pass over one who in that relation (whatever he was at the time) had the making of such a man in him? The conclusion to be come to is. not that James was no son of Mary, but that we are left in ignorance of the reason of his being passed over. Attestation of the foregoing facts. "Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not." The language approaches to oath-taking. The facts were so important, as affecting his independence as an apostle, that he gives them his most solemn attestation.
V. THE PERIOD FOLLOWING HIS FIRST VISIT TO JERUSALEM.
1. Unknown by face unto the Churches of Judaea. "Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown by face unto the Churches of Judaea which were in Christ." So far from being sent out by the twelve, the sphere of his labour during this period was far away in Syria and Cilicia. If we are to understand the Churches of Judaea as distinguished from the Church of Jerusalem, it does not exclude visits by Paul to Jerusalem during the period in question. And it appears that there was one visit by Paul during this period, viz. with contributions for the relief of the brethren in Judaea. The reason for it not being mentioned here is that it was aside from his purpose. It was a visit connected with his work in Syria and Cilicia. It did not affect his relations to the twelve; for it was during a time of persecution, when he only came into contact with the elders, and would have to make a speedy departure. It was still true that he was unknown by face unto the Christian communities of Judaea.
2. What they heard say. "But they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc; and they glorified God in me." It was only in this way that they had knowledge of Paul. The great condition of salvation is used as an equivalent for the religion of Christ. It shows how largely faith bulked in Paul's preaching. The Churches of Judaea (and they were under the influence of the Church of Jerusalem) ascribed glory to God on account of the marvellous transformation wrought on Paul. It showed the good feeling of the twelve towards Paul, so different from the feeling of the Judaists. And it showed also how these Churches rose above Paul to God. - R.F.
I. THE DESTINY. St. Paul feels that from his birth he was set apart for the great apostolic work of his later years.
1. There is a destiny in every life. God has his purpose of calling us into being.
2. This destiny is determined for us, not by us. We do not choose the circumstances in which we are born, nor our own gifts and dispositions. We can with difficulty escape from our surroundings, and we can never escape from ourselves. Whether a man will see the light as a prince in a palace, or as a beggar under a hedge, is entirely beyond his control, and it is equally impossible for him to determine whether he will have the genius of Newton or the inanity of an idiot. Yet how largely do these differences effect a man's necessary future!
3. We may be long unconscious of our destiny. St. Paul never dreamed of his while he sat at the feet of Gamaliel nor while he was harrying the Christians. It is a secret of providence gradually revealed.
4. It is our duty to work out our destiny by voluntary obedience to the will of God revealed in it when once it is revealed to us. To resist it is to kick against the pricks. We can do this, for, though set apart for a work, we may refuse to follow it by our free-will, but at our great cost.
II. THE CALL. In the Acts of the Apostles the external details of the call of St. Paul are described; here he gives us only the internal experience. He only could give this, and this was the really important thing. The flashing light, the arrested journey, the audible voice, the blindness, were all accessories. The one important thing was the inward voice that brought conviction to the heart of the man. Every apostle needed a call from Christ to constitute him such. But every Christian has some Divine call. We have not the miracle to convey the call, and we do not want it. By the manifest claims that present themselves to us, by the discovery of our own powers and opportunities of service, by the promptings of our conscience, Christ calls us to our life's work, To see a work for Christ needing to be done, and to be able to do it, is a providential call to undertake it. It is a disastrous superstition that keeps us back while we wait for a more articulate voice. God's will is manifest in the indication of what is right. To know God's will is to be called to his service.
III. THE MISSION.
1. Its object. The revelation of Christ. St. Paul was to make Christ known. He was not to spread his own religious notions, but only to reveal Christ. He was not to teach a doctrinal Christianity so much as to show Christ himself. This was to be done, not only by his words, but also by his life. He was so to live Christ that men should see Christ in him. Thus Christ was to be revealed in him. Before he could preach Christ in words he must have the revelation of Christ in his own person. If we do not reveal Christ by our lives, all our words will count for little, being belied by our glaringly inconsistent conduct. If we act like Christ, the silent influence of our living will be the most clear and powerful setting forth of Christ.
2. The scope of the mission. St. Paul was to preach Christ among the Gentiles. His own special gospel was the message that God's grace in Christ extended to the whole world. It was not for his own sake nor even for the glory of Christ alone that he was called to his great mission. The highest missions are unselfish and beneficent. We are all called in some way to minister to others. We can do it in no way better than by revealing Christ to them in our actions as well as in our words. - W.F.A.
I. THE CHURCH SHOULD HEARTILY WELCOME NEW CONVERTS. St. Paul proves conclusively that he obtained neither his Christian faith nor his apostleship from the Church at Jerusalem. But in doing so he gives little ground for the view of those who hold that he was in direct antagonism to that Church. On the contrary, he distinctly asserts that the Jewish Christians welcomed him and praised God for his conversion. This was an act of large-hearted confidence.
1. It shows a genuine Christian spirit to honour ungrudgingly a spiritual work in which we have taken no part. There is always a temptation to slight such work and to regard the fruits of it with suspicion.
2. The beauty of Christian charity is also seen in the warm welcome of one who had been an enemy. The persecutor preaches what he had opposed. That is enough for the Church at Jerusalem. If we had more faith in such conversions we should encourage them more readily.
3. The breadth of this charity is still further noticeable in readiness to welcome as a brother a man whose views and habits differ from our own. From the first St. Paul's Christianity must have borne a different colour from that of St. James. But the common faith in Christ united them.
II. THE GLORY OF CHRISTIAN GRACES IS DUE TO GOD. They are "graces:" and gifts, not attainments which a man acquires for himself. The wonderful change of the zealous persecutor of Christianity into the equally zealous preacher is wholly attributed to God. It is not St. Paul who is glorified by the Church at Jerusalem. We make the mistake of unduly praising the character of a saint without recognizing sufficiently the source of his saintliness, or we make the equally foolish error of honouring the preacher for the fruit of teaching which would never have been reaped but for the Divine power of which the man was only the conductor.
III. GOD'S GLORY IS NOWHERE SHOWN MORE RICHLY THAN IN THE WORK OF CHRISTIAN GRACE. It flashes from the face of nature, glowing in the broad heavens, smiling on the beautiful earth. It breaks out through the course of history in grand indications of providential justice and mercy. It gleams in wonderful truths revealed to the eyes of seers who speak it forth in articulate prophecy. Above all, it shines most brightly in the life and person of Christ. But as Christ is full of grace and truth, every Christian has some measure of the same blessings, and according to his measure manifests the glory of them. God may be glorified in a man. Man often dishonours God. He may also reveal God's glory. Just as the brightness of the sun is not seen in its beauty till it is reflected from earth, or sea, or sky, the glory of God must be shown on some object. Shining on the face of a Christian, it is revealed. It is well to recognize this. Our religion is too selfish, and therefore it is too gloomy. We often pray when we should be praising. We seek good things for ourselves unceasingly when we should be losing ourselves in the contemplation of the glory of God. We cannot add to that glory; yet we may and should glorify God by joyously declaring the works of his grace. - W.F.A.